Missed Seeing the Wallpapering Being Done

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, May 6, 1914: Went to Watsontown this afternoon. Didn’t want to, for I would rather had seen some papering done.

Source: Rosie's Vintage Wallpaper (Click on the link to see some additional hundred-year-old wallpapers.)
Source: Rosie’s Vintage Wallpaper (Click on the link to see some additional hundred-year-old wallpapers.)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:


Why didn’t you tell us?—Over the last 18 days, you weren’t just doing the spring housecleaning, you were also getting a room (the sitting room?) ready to be wallpapered!

I sympathize–it’s a lot of hard work to scrape off old wallpaper.

And, why were you sent on an errand to Watsontown? Were some additional wallpapering supplies needed?

Wow, Far Side of Fifty had it right! Sometimes I’m amazed when a reader has a better sense of what was happening in the Muffly household than I do. On May 1, Far Side of Fifty wrote the following comment:

They did some heavy cleaning back then. Taking everything out of a room and painting or papering it…freshening it all up.

I’m not very far ahead on doing posts right now, and I hadn’t realized until recently that in addition to doing the spring housecleaning, the Muffly’s were preparing to so some wallpapering.

I obviously thought that the term “spring housecleaning” had a narrower meaning that what it really had a hundred years ago.

27 thoughts on “Missed Seeing the Wallpapering Being Done

  1. wallpapering is making a comeback too! It is a huge pain to remove though. Maybe that is why I have seen old houses where people have just painted over wallpaper.
    Diana xo

  2. Having had the experience of taking old wallpaper down, I vowed never to add wallpaper to any house I live in!! Glad we got the explanation for all the Mufflys hard work!

    1. A few years ago, we removed some wallpaper from the walls in a bathroom, and then painted them. I was surprised how difficult it was to get all of the old wallpaper paste off the walls so that the paint would properly adhere.

  3. I’ve had very little experience with wallpaper, but what I’ve learned is that it can be a REAL chore! I don’t envy anyone having to deal with it!

    1. It’s a big job! I have some wallpaper in a bedroom that is really looking bad; and I know that I need to remove it and either paint or repaper–but somehow I never can quite bring myself to starting the project. (And, now I definitely won’t do it until next winter. It’s too nice out now to even thing about remodeling a room.)

  4. The snippet of wallpaper you show here is the color we have determined that our walls were painted originally in our hundred-year-old house. It seems to be have been all the rage at the time.

  5. I remember times watching Dad set up a big table with a drop cloth over it. He would lay out a strip of wallpaper, paint it with paste, fold it over on itself, and let it sit for a while. He would prepare another. When it got folded, he would take the first one and climb the ladder. He and Mom would position it and press it into place. He’d go back, fix another strip, and take the folded one up the ladder.

    The makeover was always cool to watch. As a result, I was never afraid to do wallpapering myself. I done many projects. The best part is getting the strips hung and trimmed out. The worst part is removing the old paper.

    1. Did your Dad make homemade wallpaper paste that was made with flour? I have a vague memory of my mother mixing up homemade paste when I was a child.

  6. I know I have done wallpapering in my own “adult” home, but somehow this brought back images of the excitement I felt as a kid when we had new wallpaper in our house. It just seemed to bring in new hope for something wonderful in the future.

    1. I hadn’t thought about it quite that way, but you’re right–redecorating a room can give a sense of hope for a better future.

  7. Their houses weren’t temperature controlled like today. Often mold and mildew had to be scrubbed from the walls. Spring cleaning was a big deal back then.

  8. Hey! That was a lucky guess on my part…the diary I transcribed about the same time mentions papering in the spring along with spring housecleaning!
    We live in a different era. Think wood cooking stove…soot and grease in the kitchen..and wood heat in a sitting room..soot… it involved some heavy spring cleaning.

    1. Whew, I never thought of soot. It’s sounds awful. Some things are better now! It’s amazing how we both are transcribing diaries that describe similar activities.

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